The Sigh for Shalom
By MVC Guest Author, Debbie Smallwood
Don’t you long for it…
that elusive land of completeness
where days are winsome, whole, and simple
where all our words are properly understood
where our most heartfelt intentions are purely and gracefully executed
where the gas tank is always full
the laundry is always folded
our children are always laughing and well-behaved
and family relationships never falter?
Our inmost image-bearing essence craves this type of deep tranquility where harmony is the order of the day and calm and stillness reign. We deeply desire bounty and delightful goodness where no child goes to bed hungry, no single mother fears the future, and no soldier has a battle to fight.
We deeply desire for all to be well.
All true. Yet today we sigh. The place we find ourselves in this advent is not that kind of season. We are woefully broken. Our tiny bits of shalom and peace have been shredded and shattered. Huge chunks of our lives are missing and broken, and all we can do is acknowledge that shalom eludes and ignores us.
Disorder, upheaval, sickness and death have come to us in recent days with a vengeance, and most days, we mournfully sigh. We sigh because it appears there is nothing else we can do. Nothing we can change. Nothing we can do to shore up the walls of brokenness, either here at home or across the sea. No way to stop the very air we breathe from poisoning us with deadly disease.
Shalom is dead.
Peace on Earth has fled.
Sighing it seems, is our only collective response.
God has sovereignly placed a difficult family member in my life that continues to teach me challenging lessons about many things; one being how to bring peace and shalom to the here and now. My desire has been to do my best to rebuild broken things between us, yet often I struggle to find adequate wisdom to navigate this tough relationship.
Many years ago, as I was new on my healing journey, I read in James that the wisdom of heaven is first of all, pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruit, and that peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
Those words seemed like a good place to begin so I made a decision to sow peace with this person as best I could. Forgiveness, patience, giving them the benefit of the doubt; all these practices were time consuming and painful, slow and hard, yet the harvest was still my ultimate goal.
Sow peace and reap righteousness.
Over the years, I’ve seen glimpses of shalom with them, but I was not expecting what happened this past week, a small, yet mighty movement toward rightness and peace.
We were gathered as a small family group for Thanksgiving, ate a splendid meal and shared meaningful conversation together. As the leftovers were divided and we prepared to leave, we moved outside and carefully hugged one another. As I hugged this person, I heard a strangely beautiful sigh of shalom come forth from them; a sigh that sounded like this…
“All is well, and we are finally restored as much as possible. All the years eaten up by pain and anger have been whisked away by the peaceful breath of God”.
You’ve probably heard a sigh like that before from someone you love if you’ve stopped to take the time, maybe even from yourself at the end of a productive day, or as you tuck your kids into bed, as you sit beside the sea, or gaze into a canopy of stars overhead.
The sigh that means, “Ah, well done” or “You are mine”, or “I’m so glad we made up”.
That sweet, tender and hard fought for sigh of shalom, the sigh that means “truly all is well” or
“even if it doesn’t appear to be perfect, all will soon be well”.
I let that holy sigh hang in the air for a few seconds while I held the beauty of that sacred moment under the cold night sky. When I heard that breath, that audible sigh of relief, the sigh of long-awaited shalom, all the pains and distresses of the past were vanquished, and, for that moment, we were swept into a new and holy community, hemmed in by the harvest of righteousness.
I literally saw and heard a bit of God’s promised harvest, His wisdom, His rightness and peace. God came very close in that moment, repairing more of the wall we had torn down, replacing more missing pieces and rightfully restoring more of our brokenness. The rhema breath, or utterance of God was heard in that sigh, that beautiful sigh of relief that proved pain is behind us and we can move forward toward even greater healing.
Seeds of peace sown over many years have reaped a harvest of righteousness and rightness between us. What a gift.
As I ponder and wander through this season of waiting and certain uncertainty, I will let that sigh of shalom, alive and well, resonate in my heart.
Ah, peace on the heels of hope.
What an advent.